Photo Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald
A semi truck travels down Highway 18 towards Hot Springs. A new ordinance being discussed by the Fall River County Commission would limit the use of air brakes by truck drivers.
By Cathy Nelson
HOT SPRINGS – The Fall River County Commissioners continued their discussion on passing an ordinance restricting the noise of truck jake brakes. The ordinance that had its first reading at the July 16 meeting was modified at the commission meeting on August 6 to include the word “unmuffled,” but the commission decided to add a fine schedule and read it again at their August 20 meeting. The ordinance was read on July 16 as follows:
“A dynamic braking device is a device used primarily on trucks which converts the engine from an internal combustion engine to an air compressor for the purpose of braking without the use of wheel brakes. These devices are commonly referred to as ‘air brakes,’ ‘Jacob’s brakes’ or ‘jake brakes.’ The use or operation of a dynamic braking device is hereby prohibited in specified, identified areas within Fall River County, unless, 1) use of the dynamic braking device is necessary to avert imminent danger, or 2) use by emergency vehicles.”
The commission is considering adding the word “unmuffled” before the words “dynamic braking device is hereby prohibited,” so it would read an “unmuffled dynamic braking device is hereby prohibited.”
Commissioner Joe Falkenburg said he had received “a lot of calls” asking him and the commission to leave things as they are. Not all the truck noise is from jake brakes, he said.
Suggestions to improve the sound in certain areas included extending the 55 m.p.h. zone farther north on Highway 79, so trucks would start slowing down before they reach the KOA Campground near Maverick Junction.
Commissioner Deb Russell suggested posting signs alerting drivers to be considerate of others by keeping their noise down. While most truck drivers are considerate, there are some who enjoy making a lot of noise, which is disturbing to the nearby neighborhoods. “Hopefully, they will see the sign and be considerate,” she said.
Tuffy Halls who lives on Highway 18 said he conducted his own survey by listening to trucks for five hours a night. He said 60 trucks passed by and only three used jake brakes, some were muffled. He also studied truck traffic north of Maverick Junction on Hwy 79 and said of 70 trucks only a “small percentage used jake brakes, and most of the noise was when the trucks went up the hill.” He added, “I don’t think we have a jake brake problem, we have a political issue.” He asked the commissioners to stop the liberal politics from spreading into this area.
Wes Grimes of Hot Springs said when he drove through Custer and Hill City he didn’t see any signs about noise. He added that using jake brakes is a safety issue and that he didn’t understand why the commission would want to pass an ordinance.
Dean Cape of Hot Springs said the use of jake brakes is a safety issue and an ordinance would jeopardize public safety.
Another question posed by some members of the audience was how the commission expected to enforce the ordinance. Sheriff Bob Evans said that in order to write a ticket he would have to witness the offense. The commission plans to set a fine schedule for offenders.
After this discussion, the commissioners decided to refine the ordinance before presenting it at their next meeting. Commissioners Abbott, Russell and Falkenburg voted ‘nay’ to passing the ordinance reading. “I want it rewritten with the fines,” said Commissioner Falkenburg.